Ashes Lost by US Airways, Vexed Widow Says
(CN) - US Airways chose the final resting place of a cancer patient by losing the ashes entrusted to it by his grieving widow, she claims in court.
Angeline O'Grady says she had planned to carry her husband's ashes to England herself, but security concerns forced her to entrust the remains to US Airways, which bungled the transatlantic transfer in the worst possible way.
The Trumbauersville, Pa., resident sued US Airways and its Phoenix-based parent in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
"Plaintiff is the widow of Brian O'Grady, who succumbed to cancer on Oct. 5, 2011 after a valiant fight," the complaint states. "Mr. O'Grady and plaintiff were born in England and Mr. O'Grady's express wishes were that he be cremated, that his ashes be returned to his homeland and that they be scattered at the cemetery in Hull, England, where his mother's ashes had been scattered, only months earlier, in May 2011. Plaintiff pledged to her husband that she would carry out his wishes. On November 1, 2011, accompanied by her husband's precious remains, she arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport intending to board her 8:00 p.m. flight to Manchester, England, with her carry-on bag holding the container with her husband's ashes."
At the airport security checkpoint, a Transportation Security Administration agent allegedly informed O'Grady that she could not board the plane with the container of ashes "because its contents were not a solid substance."
"Pursuant to the TSA instructions, plaintiff went to the US Airways desk to have US Airways personnel retrieve her checked bag so that her husband's ashes could be placed therein," the complaint states. "Plaintiff presented US Airways personnel with her baggage claim so that her checked bag could be located and retrieved. Plaintiff presented US Airways with her husband's death certificate. Plaintiff handed her husband's ashes to US Airways. The ashes were properly contained and labeled, as to identify the contents, and plaintiff expressly described to US Airways the contents of the container. The unique and sacred nature of plaintiff's property was thus identified and manifest to anyone who would be handling it. The plaintiff trusted and relied upon assurances give to her by US Airways that this extremely valuable property would be handled with the utmost care and respect and placed in her checked bag."
When O'Grady arrived in Hull, England, she discovered that the ashes were missing from her checked bag, according to the complaint.
It allegedly took several emails to get a response from US Airways, but, "to this day, US Airways has failed to return Mr. O'Grady's ashes to plaintiff and has failed to explain what happened to them."
"US Airways, rather than Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady, has had the last word in determining Mr. Grady's final resting place," the complaint continues. "He is not at peace. Nor can plaintiff, his grieving widow, be at peace. Plaintiff's husband's irreplaceable remains, entrust to US Airways' safe handling, have been lost because of US Airways' breach of its duties through negligence, recklessness, indifference, callousness and intentional conduct in the mishandling of his remains; in the failure to locate and return them to Mrs. O'Grady; and in the failure to explain what happened to them."
O'Grady says that the jar containing her husband's ashes was clearly labeled with her husband's name and that of Schmidt Funeral Home. She claims that the airline made no effort to contact the funeral home after it lost the jar, and that it "has failed to explain how or why US Airways lost the ashes."
She seeks $50,000 for breach of contract, bailment, negligence and intentional infliction of mental distress.
Her attorney, William Goldman Jr., is from Doylestown.